Author Archive | hortoris

Tree Close Ups

Spring buds bursting into life.

Barking up the wrong tree


Patterns from nature inspire painters – is this natural or an artists impression?

Stake out your support for  trees

Limes in Malaga botanic garden lead to a interesting garden


Spring is Sprung – Finally

It is still be very cold and dank in some  parts of the UK but the flowers hint that spring has finally sprung. It has been a stuttering start for 2018 and the ground is still fearfully wet and therefore very cold.

Star performers so far this year have been Helebores that have taken all the snow and cold that could be thrown at them and still come out well. The Primula family have produce strong colour and my Drumstick primulas in 3 distinct colours have been reconsigned into a ‘Den Den’ to produce showy blooms close together. (Primula denticulata give rise to the new named zone). Unlike previous years the daffodils in pots have done better than those in open ground.

More effort has gone into plants kept in the house as these white Muscari show. I have planted these back out into a white zone within the garden to add to the special daffodils next year. I have had mixed success with bought mothers day houseplants like roses (No I tell a lie they were a great disappointment and a waste of the kids money).






Veins and a Varicose Pansy

Roses are red Pansies are blue -They’re available in other colours – but what can you do?

Blue Vein Pansy is a character in the Greenskeeper Gathering andgarden dragon game of ‘Flight Rising’ where ‘These flowers fend for themselves, uprooting to seek sunlight, shade, and water as required.’
Would that all plants were so accommodating.

Plants can be segregated into two groups Monocots with parallel veins that begin at the base of the leaf and end at the tip without any branching. The Dicots that includes Pansy have veins that start at the bottom and branch out in an ordered network all over the leaf.

Unlucky Gardeners

  1. The amorous corpuscle loved in vein but gardeners are not vane about the weather and this is a vain attempt at humour!
  2. I had a rock garden but the rocks died
  3. I crossed Poison Ivy with Clover and got a rash of good luck
  4. The CO2 emissions and new weather has led to Global Worming
  5. The forecast for tonight  – Dark

Thanks to pin interest there are lots of Pansy pictures in the same vein.



Bamboo Care and Maintenance

Lawns are cut regularly to encourage side shoots, prevent flowers and to keep the grass tidy. Some attention should also be given to other grasses and bamboos to encourage production of fresher growth at the beginning of the growing season.

bamboo ice

Pruning Bamboo

  • All bamboos look better when scruffy, broken or damaged shoots are removed.
  • Thin out dense thickets to create space for the flexing stems of new shoots.
  • Cut out old canes with sharp loppers or a pruning saw flush to the ground.
  • Thin out other shoots to create a balanced, airy clump.
  • Prune above a node to prevent die back.
  • Weak side shoots and branches often look unattractive and a judicious pruning improves appearance.

Bamboo Care

  • The best time to thin and prune is late spring just before new culms emerge.
  • Don’t be afraid to remove 30% of the culms leaving the freshest one-two year olds.
  • For more growth from dwarf bamboos cut down to soil level in early spring and treat like a hardy perennial to get fresh clean foliage.
  • Instead of under planting you can decorate with stones or round pebbles.
  • Some bamboos are invasive and the tough, springy roots need to be removed or root pruned annually. Plant a barrier at least 18 inches deep around invasive types.
  • Bamboo can be turned into Topiary as the leaves grow more abundantly after pruning and the culm won’t grow
  • Bamboos need to be replaced every 10-15 years
  • Water plants in late spring during a dry spell to help new shoots to develop.


Bamboo in Pots

  • Potted bamboos should never be allowed to dry out even in winter.
  • Because bamboo is tall, it may be susceptible to being blown over so weight the pot accordingly.
  • Bamboos make good subjects for growing in pots. I use terracotta pots as the colour seems to go well with the green leaves.
  • Pots restrict the root run of the plants and they should be trimmed every year.
  • Arundinaria viridistriata ‘Pleioblastus’ or Phyllostachys nigra ‘Black Bambo’o are decorative dwarf bamboos suitable for pot culture.
  • Feed with a high nitrogen feed as bamboos are hungry plants and you are their only source of nourishment.

New Bamboo Boulevard at RHS Harlow Carr


New and Urban Hedge Rows

Hedge your bets and start a hedge fund and do not hedge around!

This isn’t my favourite hedge spotted on a walk to Menston railway station but it hints at what can be achieved. I would now opt for a fruitful hedge to feed me and the birds.

  • The blending of green, grey and red foliage has produced a singular hedge.
  • Mixed colours work best if kept formal, neat and tidy
  • Do not allow one type of plant dominate another, these all seem to be in proportion but vigorous growers will need more trimming
  • Different shaped foliage could also be blended in a mixed hedge
  • The stone wall provides some relief from the base of the hedge
  • Train lower branches into gaps. remove extraneous plants like the Choysia on the left

How to Plant A Hedge

  • Plant a bare root hedge in winter between November and March.
  • Buy 2 0r 3 year old plants in bundles. If you can’t plant them at once heel them into a trench.
  • Protect plants with a plastic bag whilst they are out of the ground.
  • Clear the ground of perennial weeds and keep it clear by hoeing.
  • Dig a trench 18″ wide for a single row of plants. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench and add slow release fertiliser like bone meal.
  • It isn’t necessary to add organic matter except perhaps as a mulch after planting.
  • Sprinkle any fungi treatment directly onto the bare roots before planting.
  • Water the hedge for the first year but then leave it to it’s own devices.

Old Adverts How Are You Doing My Old Fruit?

It is interesting to see how gardening adverts have changed with the horticultural industry and modern developments. Yet a top fruit business has in some ways stayed the same.

We are all pleased to see Ken Muir’s specialist fruit business is still on the go although Ken himself died in 2011 at the age of 85. This advert in The Garden October 1976 was placed when his mail order business was 10 years old. Ken Muir was famous for starting the Pick Your Own trend and supplying strawberries to Marks And Spencer. Unfortunately I can find no trace of Oldfield Nurseries – they claim an admiral slogan that we can take to heart  ‘We are NOT a garden Center –  We grow what we sell.’ Is it another case of use it or loose it?

Are weather vanes as popular now as they were? We get modern weather forecasts via all sorts of media but gardeners need to understand local conditions and what impacts on their own micro climates so there is a place for wind vanes.

Landsman bookshops suffered the fate of other specialist bookshops when information became a cheap commodity on the internet. This coincided with a drop in the number of students studying horticulture and farming. They lasted another 32 years after this advert  running a mobile bookshop which visited major agricultural and horticultural shows but then liquidation followed.

Andrews Lawn Edgers LTD  are not ‘ALE and hearty’ either! The Vintage Horticultural and Garden  Machinery Club reports ALE ‘sold many items including the Spintrim lawn edger, Billy Goat vacuum, Bluebird scarifier and the Cyclone spreader’ they have the adverts to proove it. I like the thought of Jenny the generator for the garden.


Brussels Sprouts Difficulties

Good, firm, mild flavoured Brussels Sprouts are a heavy yielding crop that only need a bit of care and consideration. Here are our top tips.

Correct Growing Techniques

  • F1 seeds will give the best results. It is a case of you get what you pay for. Cheap Brussels Sprouts seeds often lead to open pollinated varieties that fail to justify the time and space utilised.
  • Firm almost packed soil is appreciated by Brussels Sprouts. Draw some soil up around 10″ of the stem in late summer to prevent wind rock or tie plants to a firm stake. Open loose soil encourages blown. ‘fluffy’ sprouts.
  • Wet seasons can lead to foliage loss and leaf disease. Plant 12-18″ apart or wider on an open site to reduce the severity of infection. Water in summer if there is a drought.
  • Where white blister and ringspot diseases are severe choose resistant varieties like Dimitri, Cronus,  & Bosworth.
  • This year I am trying Burbane and Rudolph from Kings seeds.

Pests and Other Problems

  • Whitefly, caterpillars and aphids can be a problem mid season. It is no fun if they get into the buttons. Cold weather cures these problems but failing that I treat plants with a mild insecticide.
  • Yellow fungus infected rotting leaves can’t be treated with any garden approved fungicide. Pull off any affected leaves and bin them.
  • As with other brassicas their is a danger of club root that is best solved by crop rotation into fresh soil improving drainage and adding lime. I have heard of planting the sprouts with a rhubarb leaf as a prophylactic.
  • Frost can be both good and bad. Young plants need to be planted mid summer well after any frost but stalks can stand into winter and are sweeter if frosted first.
  • Old sprouts can have an odor caused by compounds containing sulfur. This may be the cause of sprouts falling out of favour in some kitchens until new varieties were discovered.

Varieties & Variations of Brussels Sprouts

  • Top Eight F1 varieties include  Brendan, Trafalgar, Crispus. Nautic, Bridget, Brodie, Maximus F1 and Hastings.
  • Flower sprouts are the result of crossing a Brussels Sprout and curly Kale resulting in tasty small green and purple sprouts with curly leaves ideal for adding to stir fries.
  • Older varieties of Brussels Sprouts have the best flavour, but it is the modern hybrids which have the ability to hold the small tight buttons for a long time on the stem.
  • Red Brussels Sprouts  deepen in colour as the weather gets colder. Red Bull produces medium sized buttons with an unusual nutty flavour. The colour reverts to green when cooking. Red Ball is hardy and has a long cropping season.

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

  • Take the buttons from the bottom of the stalk first.
  • Take off blown or flowering sprouts and any yellowing leaves as you go.
  • Cut off the whole stalk and use the sprouts indoors as you need them. They keep better on the stalk.
  • The top of the stalk can be eaten like a small cabbage

What Makes a Good Cut Flower


A Gardener’s Perspective of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. A flower that need little specialist care or treatment and is easy to harvest.
  2. Reblooming often and for a long season so it looks good even when left uncut.
  3. Grows quickly and true from seed.
  4. Can be forced, so it flowers when required.
  5. Satisfies the recipient for the least consumption of resources in time and space.

Tips to Help a Bouquet Last

  1. Choose flowers with firm petals or buds that sho colour that means they have developed enough feed to flower properly
  2. Fill your clean vase with lukewarm water, that will have less oxygen, to prevent air bubbles blocking the stem.
  3. Strip off leaves below the waterline
  4. Use flower food but not aspirin, bleach sugar or lemonade that encourage bacteria to breed
  5. Treat the flowers with respect, I changed after I stopped calling them a bunch of flowers

A Customer View Point of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Fragrance that is evocative, strong and distinctive.
  2. Colour or colour combinations that are appropriate. Rich and saturated or soft, contrasting or blendable
  3. Texture and proportion that can provide contrast of shape and form.Suitable length and flower aesthetics to match a display vessel.
  4. How long will it last in a vase or foam and will it need any special treatment or conditioning.
  5. Personal appeal or favourite reflecting a special association, event or season

To grow a generic mix of flowers for arrangements and bouquets check out Thompson & Morgan
A Retailers View of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Availability for a long period from a variety of suppliers.
  2. Lots of colour and sales Pizzaz
  3. Long life in Florists pre-sale and then in the home
  4. Profitable and able to generate repeat custom

According to Linda Beutler in ‘Garden to Vase’ the answer is not just ‘Mums’ ‘Glads’ and ‘Carns’

Book Cover

Gardeners Tips to Condition and Extend Life by Plant

Fatsia Japonica
Corkscrew hazel


Glove Plants – Puppet or Muppet?


Some fun photos that appeal to my sense of humour. These are the famous ‘Glove Flowers’ yes you guessed it they are Marigolds. African Marigolds to be accurate with flower heads 4″ across.

If you were thinking of prickly plants that need gloves I am sorry no one Rose to the occasion.


Foxes do not were gloves and I do not know how they got their name but this healthy Foxglove has distinctive spots on the white tubular flowers.

Yellow Foxglove

I am trying to remember the name of this perennial Foxglove species. The flowers are smaller than other foxgloves but the plant has been a reliable ‘doer’ for me for many years.
They are not called ladies Fingers that is the vegetable Okra.
That gave me time to remember that Digitalis lutea is the 3 feet high foxglove that flowers creamy yellow on one side of the stem.

Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris

Back to the rubber gloves of Marigold fame. This time they are Marsh Marigolds but as tempest fugit and time marshes on that is all for today (thank goodness ed). As the name implies these little rascals love water but try to do it without unzipping your pants.


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